Middle Eastern music has several distinct rhythmic patterns, which can be played with to dramatically change the mood.
Malfouf is an exciting rhythm used for fast paced entrances and drum solos. This “rolling” beat calls for light and quick movements. The popular Hagallah shimmy is commonly performed to a variation of this rhythm.
Baladi, known as Masmoudi in Egypt, calls for earthy, grounded movements, and is often the moment when the audience starts to clap. In Egypt it is important to note that “Baladi” is a generic word for “local”, and does not refer to a rhythm.
Masmoudi Kabir, roughly translated as “Big Masmoudi”, is the same beat as Baladi/Masmoudi, however it repeats after 8 counts, not 4. While the Baladi rhythm is more upbeat, Masmoudi Kabir gives the dancer more time to ground down into the Dums. This rhythm typically follows the entrance in the classical style.
Maqsoum is a common rhythm with many variations, including the speedy Maqsoum Sareea, which is the Maqsoum rhythm played in half the time.
The Fellahi rhythm is used in celebratory folk songs by Egyptian farmers, and is particularly common in Upper Egypt. It is the same rhythm as Maqsoum – only twice as fast. Fellahi is often used in tandem with the spirited Saidi rhythm.
The Saidi is an upbeat, energetic rhythm, which has become very popular with Cairo-style dancers. During Saidi performances, dancers will often wear more folkloric costumes, and dance in a forward and backward motion with a cane.